Ateneo closes in on UAAP men's volley title, draws first blood in finals against National U
Marck Espejo scores a season-high 31 points, just two points short of his career high. Jerome Ascano 

ATENEO survived a tough fightback from National University, closing in on the UAAP volleyball title with a 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22 in the opener of the best-of-three finals series on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Marck Espejo scored a season-high 31 points for Ateneo, two short of his career-high he notched last year in the elimination round.

The Blue Eagles they try to seal the title on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“Match lang naman ang laban. ’Yung mga players, gusto lang manalo today,” said Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, noting that they need to play harder in the next match because the Bulldogs simply won’t back down as evidenced by the tough second and third sets.

“We didn’t start strong. After giving up the second set, we thought na mag-memellow down sila. Pero hindi.”

“Hindi kami puwedeng mag-relax. Hindi pa ito ang goal namin. Kailangang maka-dalawang panalo. I’m sure babalik ang NU,” said Almadro.

Ysay Marasigan contibuted 22 points for the Blue Eagles.

Jan Pagliwanan had 15 points, while Peter Torres added 14 for the Bulldogs.

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